Early findings posted ahead of rigorous peer review suggested the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine declined to 42% effectiveness against infection amid sweeping spread of the delta variant, with the Moderna vaccine declining to 76%.
Researchers at the Mayo Clinic and Cambridge-based biotech company nference posted the retrospective study in medrxiv this week, drawing from tens of thousands PCR tests conducted at the Mayo Clinic and affiliated hospitals across nearly half a dozen states.
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The study period analyzed samples from January to July, when either the alpha or delta variant was a highly prevalent strain; “the Delta variant prevalence in Minnesota increased from 0.7% in May to over 70% in July whereas the Alpha variant prevalence decreased from 85% to 13% over the same time period,” the preprint reads.
While results indicated the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines were highly effective against COVID-19 infection (76%, 86%, respectively) and hospitalization (85%, 91.6%) the effectiveness against infection dropped by July to 42% and 76%, respectively.
Further findings indicated that people vaccinated with Moderna’s shot were half as likely to develop a breakthrough infection, compared to recipients of the Pfizer vaccine. What’s more, researchers found that Florida residents fully vaccinated with Moderna’s shot faced a 60% lower risk of infection when compared to Pfizer recipients. Also, across all states, the Moderna vaccine cut COVID-related hospitalizations by about half the rate compared to the Pfizer vaccine. Researchers noted “no significant difference” between the groups relating to ICU admission for COVID-19.
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Study authors suggested several factors behind the differences observed among the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines, including the dosing, meaning “each mRNA-1273 [Moderna] dose provides three times more mRNA copies of the Spike protein than BNT162b2 [Pfizer], which could result in more effective priming of the immune response.”
Fox News has requested comment from Pfizer and Moderna.
The study had its limitations; the sample size wasn’t representative of the U.S. population, and authors said other factors could’ve impacted the findings regarding reduced vaccine effectiveness (like “waning immunity over time, the dynamic landscape of SARS-CoV-2 variants, or other factors that were not considered here.”)
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“Our observational study suggests that while both mRNA COVID-19 vaccines strongly protect against infection and severe disease, there are differences in their real-world effectiveness relative to each other and relative to prior months of the pandemic,” study authors concluded.
Researchers called for larger studies with more diverse participants to guide public health decisions, including timing of booster doses.